First Russia-Africa summit
In a move to expand its footprint across Africa, Russia held the first Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum on 23-24 October 2019 in Sochi under the theme “For Peace, Security and Development.” All 54 African states took part in the event, including 47 heads of state. Moving beyond business as usual dominated by arms and grain sales, the final declaration outlines a set of goals for Russian-African co-operation, including a new mechanism for dialogue. The Russia-Africa Summit will be held once every three years. In addition, annual political consultations will be organised between ministers of foreign affairs. The declaration outlines areas of co-operation in the fields of politics, security, trade, economic co-operation, legal co‑operation, environmental protection as well as scientific, technical, humanitarian and information co-operation. The economic forum focused on three thematic pillars: forging economic ties, creating joint projects and collaborating in the humanitarian and social sector. Trade flows between Russia and Africa in 2018 amounted to USD 20 billion, which is twice what it was in 2015, but remains low compared to other partners such as China (USD 205 billion in 2018) or India (USD 63 billion in 2018). Egypt accounts for 40% of this trade flow (USD 7.7 billion in 2018), followed by Algeria with approximately 30%. Russia has historically predominated with its arms sales in Africa (mostly to Algeria, Angola, Egypt and Sudan), but is now promising to diversify into other areas without “political or other” interference. “We have many potential partners in Africa, it is true, and we are talking about potential partners with strong opportunities for development and huge growth potential,” declared Russian President Vladimir Putin. “The development and consolidation of mutually beneficial ties with African nations and their integration associations is now one of Russia’s foreign policy priorities,” he highlighted on the forum’s website. On the side-lines of the summit, the African Union Commission signed co-operation agreements with the Russian Federation as well as with the Eurasian Economic Commission.